From Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly:
In his first year, the president has presented a package of domestic partnership benefits for federal workers, addressed the diplomatic passport issue, issued a strong Pride Month proclamation, hosted a White House event to honor the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law, lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, and recommitted to do even more. It’s not a bad start.
Barack Obama also let a gay band into the inaugural parade to make up for the fact that he chose a homophobe leader of the Prop 8 repeal to do the invocation at his swearing in.
Look, let’s revisit Steve’s list of things we should be thankful for:
1. The President did not present a package of domestic partner benefits for federal employees. As the NYT reported, after I got OPM director John Berry to admit it, the benefits weren’t “new” at all. They were benefits that gay federal employees have been accessing since the Clinton administration.
2. The diplomatic passport issue. I think Steve may be conflating two issues. Some new benefits for partners of State Department employees and the administration permitting married gay couples to put their married name on their passports. Both nice changes. Not earth shattering by any means.
3. A strong Pride proclamation? Give me a break. We are a core Democratic constituency. Issuing proclamations does not merit being on the list of serious civil rights accomplishments.
4. An event to honor the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. Well, no, actually it was a cocktail party that the White House organized, at the last minute, to assuage a select group of “good gay” community leaders during the uproar over the administration’s DOMA incest/pedophilia brief. Many other gay leaders were blackballed from the same event for criticizing the administration’s efforts to defend DOMA in court.
5. Signed an expanded hate crimes law. Okay, that was a good thing. It also required the White House to spend zero political capital. Hate Crimes had already passed the House and Senate during the last Congress, and even beat an attempted filibuster in the Senate. The President did nothing to get the Hate Crimes bill passed. He did sign it, but so would any other Democratic president. He gets our thanks for signing it, but let’s be serious here. The administration did nothing to get the bill to the President’s desk, so the credit here is minimal – this does not count as a chit they earned so now they don’t have to act on another promise.
6. Lifted the HIV travel ban. This was good. Congress had already passed the “lifting,” but it’s good that the administration went through with it.
7. Recommitted to do more. Whatever.
Look, the administration and the DNC are always happy to put out long lists of their pro-gay “accomplishments” during their first year. And the list is quite lengthy, and quite lacking in actual substance. Joe and I detailed a good 40 grievances the community had with the Obama administration and the Democratic party during the first year of Obama’s term alone. Many are quite serious, such as continuing to defend DOMA in court (and invoking incest and pedophilia to justify the law). Please do review the list, it’s quite bad. And it’s why Joe and I launched the Don’t Ask Don’t Give campaign right after marriage was repealed in Maine. Democrats are not going to act on their major promises to our community – repealing DADT and DOMA, and passing ENDA – unless and until our community is willing to hold Democrats responsible for those promises. If we continue to give them money, if we continue to show up at their cocktail parties in order to give them political cover, then we will always be told that the time just isn’t right to set our people free.
The President has taken a piecemeal approach towards our civil rights, while keeping our community at a distance. We have graduated beyond Pride Proclamations and giving some benefits to some employees of some agencies. We helped elect a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President, based on their promises to enact major change on behalf of our civil rights. There is zero indication that anything is happening, or being planned to happen, on DADT, DOMA or ENDA. Zero. I’m not talking zero action in the Congress, I’m talking no one is talking about it anywhere – the planning isn’t even taking place for it to eventually happen.
And nothing will happen, so long as we continue to be content with speeches and half-measures better suited to 1994 than 2010.